What do I need to know about settling my total loss vehicle?

If you have been in an accident and your vehicle is a total loss, providing that you have coverage for your vehicle, your insurance company will work with you to pay you for your vehicle.

Your vehicle policy is an “actual cash value” policy. Actual cash value means that your company will pay you the value of your vehicle based on like kind and quality vehicles with the same features, mileage, and tread wear as your vehicle.

They do this through a subcontracted valuation service, which has a huge database of actual cars in your area (within a reasonable distance). Your company sets the valuation level. Most companies set the valuation level at “average value”. So…be careful…if your vehicle is in extremely good condition with extremely low mileage, you may get a “low ball” offer.

What can you do?

  • Send documentation such as service records, pre-accident photographs, odometer proof, etc., to establish the real value of your vehicle. Your adjuster may just repeat what the company line is. If so, go higher.
  • Conduct your own total loss evaluation. You can hire your own data base provider to value your vehicle based on the photos and estimate you have been given (if you haven’t been given these, get them from your company. You paid for this, you are entitled to it). Then…attempt to settle at a fair value.
  • Contract with a public adjuster or advocate who can, for a fee (usually a percentage), will try and prove up more value for you.
  • Submit to arbitration. Most (if not all) auto policies have an arbitration provision. If you still cannot reach a settlement, hire an arbitrator. Your company will do the same. Those two arbitrators select a third arbitrator, and any decision among any two of those is binding.

Remember…you are entitled to a fair value for your vehicle as it is…not based on an average value…if that applies.
Also you are entitled to some other payments in your policy and elsewhere:

  • If you purchased rental car coverage you will get a stated amount of daily rental. It may not be enough to rent you an (LKQ) vehicle. You don’t have to rent a Chevy Spark if your car is a Mercedes. If not, and you were not at fault in the accident, the company of the person who hit you owes for the balance of your rental. Keep good records.
  • You are entitled to sales tax on your vehicle. That’s because you paid the tax on it already.
  • Before you decide to keep your vehicle, Check with your State Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure that you can rebuild it, put it back on the road, or sell it. As salvage.
  • If you choose to keep your vehicle, your company will deduct an amount for salvage. You are free to then sell your vehicle and keep the difference. Make sure that what your company is deducting is fair. You can get a bid for your vehicle at www.ivautoinc.com. Just click on the “Non-Member Access” tab and get a fair, instant bid for your vehicle. Enter your vehicle info and upload photos if you can. The more we have, the better our offer can be.
  • In some states, you are entitled to a portion of state charges that you have to pay to operate in that state. Californians are entitled to the “VLF” recovery fee which is a surcharge that covers the cost of the to license, title, inspect your vehicle.